Stanley Cup Final draws sharp action at Las Vegas sportsbooks

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, left, celebrates after scoring a goal against t ...

The Tampa Bay Lightning are four wins away from becoming the first team in 40 years to win three consecutive Stanley Cups.

The New York Islanders were the last team to accomplish the feat when they won four straight Cups from 1980 to 1983.

Sharp bettors are banking on the Lightning to pull off a threepeat and upset the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final, which starts Wednesday in Denver.

Colorado opened as a -200 favorite at the Westgate SuperBook to win the series. But money on Tampa Bay caused the book to lower the line to -175, with the Lightning +155 underdogs.

“We had sharp money on the Lightning,” Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “Pretty much all the money has been on the Lightning, which is understandable. It’s been kind of out of sight, out of mind with the Avalanche, who won last Monday.”

Colorado has been off since June 6, when it completed a four-game sweep of Edmonton in the Western Conference final. Tampa Bay eliminated the New York Rangers on Saturday in six games after losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference final.

“People have kind of forgotten about the Avalanche with Tampa winning and the media telling you they’re going to win three straight Cups and now you’ve got huge prices,” Salmons said. “Everybody has kind of bought into them.”

Colorado also has dropped from a -170 home favorite in Game 1 to -160. Tampa Bay is +145 and the total is 6 (over-115).

Handicapper Dana Lane, host of SportsBook Radio and Vegas Hockey Hotline (KSHP-AM 1400), likes Tampa Bay to win the series and Game 1.

“You can get away with time off against the Blues, but with eight days off in between games, I’m not banking on the Avalanche to be the sharper of the two teams when the puck drops on Wednesday,” said Lane (@Danalanesports). “I think the Lighting have an edge in forward depth and that advantage will be stronger if Brayden Point comes back in the series as he’s rumored to be.

“This time of year, so much is made of depth. But it does also come down to the simple question of which team’s top line do you want to take to the window with you because the top six will log more ice time than the regular season. I’m more comfortable with the (Steven) Stamkos line at this point, as well as the obvious goaltending edge with (Andrei) Vasilevskiy.”

Lane also likes Game 1 to go over six goals.

“I expect the pace in Game 1 to provide more than enough chances to go over the total,” he said. “Typically, when the Avalanche have a long layoff, there isn’t a shortage of goals.”

Vasilevskiy limited the Rangers to five goals in the final four games of their series. In the playoffs, he leads all goalies with 12 wins, is fourth in save percentage (.928) and sixth in goals-against average (2.27).

Colorado goalies Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz have six wins apiece. Kuemper is ninth in GAA (2.65) and Francouz is 10th in save percentage (.906).

“The only huge advantage Tampa has is goaltending,” Salmons said. “And in hockey goaltending can steal you a series.

“I understand why people are betting the ‘dog. I just think Colorado, in the end, will overwhelm them. They’re just too good. This is, by far, the best team Tampa will play in the Stanley Cup Final.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.